(CNN) -- "Bikinis and big booties, y'all. That's what life is about," professes Alien, the be-grilled, white Camaro-driving rapper played by James Franco in Harmony Korine's "Spring Breakers" (in theaters Friday).
Add baby-pink ski masks and more than a little gunplay to the mix, and we're off.
The art-sleaze film about the decadent rites of American college kids stars former Disney sweethearts Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens alongside "Pretty Little Liars' " Ashley Benson and Korine's wife, Rachel, as broke coeds who stick up a chicken shack to fund the spring break of their dreams.
When the partying goes too far and the girls find themselves in jail in St. Petersburg, Florida, it's Alien who bails them out and introduces them to a life that's both darker and more tender than they ever knew.
The DayGlo- and dubstep-fueled assault on the senses was written by Korine ("Kids," "Trash Humpers") while doing some immersion research in a hotel room in Panama City, Florida, where, he told an audience at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, "people were blasting Taylor Swift music 24 hours a day, vomiting on my door and snorting donuts. It was crazy."
"It's a very base culture," he continued, "and I thought there was some kind of strange poetry in it as well."
The scenes of spring break, raunchy displays of grinding bodies and guys spilling beer into topless girls' mouths from crotch level, were taken from real-life festivities.
"Some of the scenes we were shooting, and you see we're in the motel room, and all of us are just completely covering our mouths and shocked -- that was all real," Gomez said. "We were witnessing things that were happening that were absolutely crazy and reacting in the realest way."
"The images were hypersexualized, hyperviolent," Korine said, "and then the subject matter was all the details: The bikinis and the book bags and the flip-flops and the Hello Kitty bags and the nail polish and the neons and the stickers and the glasses were all real childlike, innocent. I thought it was interesting, both of those things working together. It's a nice backdrop but also a metaphor for what happens later in the film once they meet Alien and what the movie becomes."
Though Faith, Gomez's comparatively pious character, scans as someone who might have grown out of the "Wizards of Waverly Place" and Justin Bieber trajectory, she explained that she chose the role because "I wanted to see how far I could go."
Benson said, "People are used to seeing us in certain roles, and this was a movie where we were able to show people a different side of us, and it was more exciting than anything."
Hudgens added that their characters are "a little bit psychotic in their own right, but it's such a liberating experience to be able to do a movie like this."
But, Gomez cautioned, "I don't necessarily want to know what people are going to say or think" about her choice. "It's just better that way. I can't really make anyone happy. I'm an actor, and I love what I do, so if I want to do something I'm super passionate about, I'm just going to go for it. If people like it, awesome. If not, at least we made them feel something."
CNN's Topher Gauk-Roger contributed to this story.